I did a blog on the great athlete, Mickey Vandehey, back on January 25, 2021. Mickey had been a fabulous career as a multi-sport star from 1960-64 who played football, basketball, baseball, track and even golf at Auburndale. He is a Wisconsin high school legend.
The years after Vandehey graduated were not lean ones but, not to the heights that he had taken the Apache to when he started. Mickey had a 26-4-1 record as the starting quarterback. From 1965-68 there were a series of head coaches with middle-of-the-road records. Being in the Marawood Conference meant that they were facing tougher, overall competition each season than when they were in a lesser conference (The defunct C-3) prior to 1963. When they joined the Marawood had eight teams but later added two more teams so that by 1970 there were ten members.
In 1967 Vic Bundgaard was the head coach and the Apache were 5-3 (4-3 in the Marawood). He played a lot of younger members of the squad and that set the stage for the beginning of the streak.
The season began with convincing wins over two non-conference foes, Fall Creek and Colby, before they lined up with their seven Marawood opponents. In 1967 undefeated (9-0) Stratford was rated #1 in the Associated press poll until week nine when they squeaked by Spencer in a 14-13 and they then dropped to #2 in the final “Little Ten” rankings. In a preseason poll of Marawood coaches Stratford and Auburndale were rated even for the conference title. Stratford had 12 returning starters with a total of 34 boys out for the football team.
Auburndale had 14 returning starters and an incredible 54 players start practices considering that the town’s population was only about 400.Stratford had a 15-game win streak and the game eight date for the battle between the two teams was highlighted on both teams’ calendars.
Stratford started with two non-conference wins over Neillsville and Adam-Friendship and then three conference wins before they played Pittsville, always a tough foe. Stratford led 13-8 in the fourth period. Pittsville then scored a touchdown and missed both of the extra points. A misplay earlier by Stratford on a bad snap on a punt that went into their end zone for a safety. That late Pittsville score made the score 14-13 in their favor. Stratford did drive to the Pittsville six-yard line but was stopped on a fourth and one play. Thus ended their 20-game win streak.
The next week Stratford blew out Edgar 60-7 and looked like they were back on track but then they faced Auburndale and they lost again, 20-0. The Apache dominated the game out gaining Stratford 239-yards to 193 and 15-9 in first downs. Auburndale’s season ended with the win. They were 9-0, their best season ever. Stratford had a later finale against Spencer and tied 14-14 to end 6-2-1. Stratford had been ranked #1 until the Pittsville lose but for some reason the polls didn’t show any love for Auburndale. They earned only a number 7 ranking in the final AP rankings.
Five players were named to the all-conference team with offensive guard Jerry Willfahre also earning a spot on the defensive line. Jim Mann was named as a defensive end. Bob Weller earned a spot as on offensive tackle and junior Chris Linzmeier was named to the quarterback spot. They ended 9-0 and they had a lot of young players coming back for 1969. It also ended coach Vic Bundgaard’s final season as the head football coach at Auburndale. He was also a very successful wrestling coach and after the winter season he would announce that he would be moving to Colby, 30-miles north as the head wrestling coach and as an assistant on the football team.
NOTES: I must digress now to explain that my research was done mainly based on using the internet stories of the Marshfield News Herald newspaper. Prior to the mid-1970’s it seems to e that the paper didn’t spend a lot of space for some aspects of sports…statistics, pre-season previews, post season recaps and all-conference stories. The game reports had minimal stats or even scoring recaps. It was hard to get information on the players and even know who the coach was. I weaved through the stories and was able to piece together needed information. This seemed to change sometime in the late spring/early summer of 1970.
1969 brought in Richard “Dick” Varsho as the new head coach. Varsho had been an assistant for the football team and head baseball coach. Now, the name Varsho might sound familiar. Dick passed away in 2020 and his obituary showed only the names of immediate family members. Former baseball major leaguer Gary Varsho and current MLB player Daulton Varsho are both from Marshfield. Same last name as Dick. Maybe their uncle? Nothing mentioned in the paper for a lead.
1969 began the same as the previous season. Two successful victories over non-conference foes, Fall Creek and Colby again. There was no mention in the paper leading up to the game or in the newspaper story on the game about coach Bundgaard coming back to face his former team. Fall Creek fell the week before, 8-7 in a real battle between two fine teams. Five plays into the game the Crickets scored a touchdown and kicked the extra point. In the second quarter Chris Linzmeier ran three -yards for the score then passed to end Bob Bassuener for the two-point conversion and what would turn out to be the win. Fall Creek would end up 7-2 in 1969.
NOTE: The two-point pass or run after a touchdown was new in 1969 as before then when those plays were worth only one-point.
The Colby win was 18-7 but the Apache were in charge all the way and now were ready for the Marawood season. The conference opener was against troublesome Pittsville, a 20-12 win followed by wins over Spencer and Edgar. After the Spencer win Auburndale had entered the Little Ten polls at the #2 spot. However, ranking were strange. Auburndale had kept winning but dropped for some reason to #3 by game seven. In game number six against Athens the team gained a huge 645 yards. They had a semi-close game #8 vs. Marathon, a 20-6 win but all the teams in the Little Ten were having a close game or two. The season ending game would be against Stratford. Durand was ranked #1 followed by Gale-Ettrick (they didn’t become Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau until 1972) at #2 and both were 7-0-0. Auburndale was #3 with an 8-0-0 record. Both of those school were in long win streaks as was #10, Port Edwards (7-0-0).
NOTE: All the newspapers in the area…Marshfield, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids…had Auburndale with an 18 or a 19-game win streak when it was really 17 going into the season final match with Stratford.
The win over Stratford was a blowout, if you can call a 20-0 victory, as they outgained the Tigers 323-yards to 92. Stratford ended the season with a 7-2-0 record (An earlier loss to Pittsville was their only other loss). The Wausau Daily News had both Stratford and Pittsville with a season final record of 7-1-1 but that wasn’t correct. They were 7-2-0.
Coach Dick Varsho discusses strategy with quarterback Chris Linzmeier during 1969 20-0 win over Stratford (Courtesy of the Marshfield News-Herald)
Here is the AP Little Ten poll before the Stratford game…Oct. 23, 1969
A few days later, Oct. 29, 1970, the final Little Ten poll was released and as you can see, there was a lot of movement.
Note: The AP had not updated Auburndale’s season record which was 9-0-0. Durand’s 36-game winning streak ended with a 20-14 loss to River Falls.
Again, the team earned six spots on the Marawood Conference first team. Offensive end Dennis Raab also was named as a defensive back on the squad. Cliff Altman was named as an offensive tackle; George Swetz was on the defense as a tackle and Bob Bassuener was listed as a linebacker. Chris Linzmeier was a repeat at the quarterback spot. Chris would also garner spots on the Wausau TV-Channel 7 All-Area first team and noted as an honorable mention all-state. Linzmeier posted, the best I can piece together, passing stats of 148-83-1421-14 with eight two-point conversion completions. He gain about 400-yards on the ground and scored eight touchdowns on the ground and even caught a 31 pass for a score against Athens. The senior was a true leader and well respected and a multi-sport star.
The first two seasons of the streak were now complete. Next time, the final part of the streak.